Monday, June 27, 2011

"... make sure you are building the best school for our cluster ..." [Testimony at tonight's Board of Ed meeting]

Good evening, my name is Maria Marzullo, and I would like to discuss the feasibility study process regarding the new middle school for the BCC cluster.

I have participated in both open meetings for the feasibility studies for the school proposed at Rock Creek Hills. While this process is called a feasibility study, it is clear that there is no option for a decision of “not feasible”. There is no contingency plan, process or time allowed for the option to ever come about, even though we have repeatedly been told that this is an option. Given the BOE’s time line for a middle school and urgency to include this school in the next CIP budget, a “not feasible” option seems improbable.

However, a “not feasible” decision may be the best decision in this case. There are several factors that were not considered between the site selection process and what is called the “feasibility study.” The site topography and location to a watershed stream make it challenging to build on. Site access that was in place with Kensington Junior High, as well as a third of the acreage, is no longer there. The school building would need to be constructed on heavily wooded areas. Site access, road widths and utilities are major factors that would greatly increase costs of building at Rock Creek Hills.

Shouldn’t these factors be analyzed before the start of a process that is, in effect, a fait accompli? Why not take some time to analyze the top three sites from the site selection committee to determine some of these factors and compare costs? This could be accomplished in a shorter time line and with less cost of the current feasibility process.

Taking the time and perhaps small increase in upfront costs would result in major benefits in the long run. You can ensure that the site will meet not only the minimum requirements for a middle school, but also all the preferred requirements. Selecting the right site could save the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in construction and infrastructure costs.

You may feel it is too late to do this now for this middle school. But, in fact, now is the time to do it before significant dollars are spent and a less than optimal school is constructed. Take a step back and make sure you are building the best school for our cluster, one that meets all the requirements and is at parity to Westland, and ensure that you are doing it in the most fiscally responsible way.

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